Day 10 – Reality Bites
Today we continued on the ‘NH35 holeway’ struggling to average more than 25km per hour.
In the cool and quiet of the early morning, we began the day dodging meteorite sized potholes as the sun crept above the horizon. It almost felt like a scene from Mad Max. Amidst all the craziness, it wouldn’t have felt odd at all for Tina to appear in monolith form, bearing that signature stance she has that commands attention.
Pot hole after pothole, truck after polluting truck, the reality of our endeavour kicks in. A huge, overloaded truck spewing toxic black smoke from its side overtakes us, leaving us suffocated in his putrid fumes and blinded by smoke. We are reminded that we are the most insignificant motorised vehicle on the Indian highway. Though motorbikes are smaller, their manoeuvrability and speed gives them a higher ranking in the vehicle pecking order. I’ve done my damnedest for the plight of the Tuk Tuk to command respect from the bullies of the highway and in 10 days of driving have bought 2 oncoming trucks to a grinding halt as they tried to push us out of our lane.
Ironically, a large proportion of trucks have “Obey Road Rules” splashed across their rear. The best I’ve seen is a truck with “God bless you” painted on the front and “Good Luck” painted on the back. Some even have rear mud flaps with “Good” on the left and “Luck” on the right. This is probably the most useful message to prepare you for your time on the Indian roads. Nearly all trucks have “Horn Please” or “Blow Horn” clearly signed on the rear of their vehicles.
A truck has just sped past us bearing the phrase “Slow Drive, Long Life”. How about a little less professing and a little more doing!
Lets talk Bling! These truckers love to pimp their vehicles. Generally the whole front cab has been painted with a well thought out scheme to give an individual flavour to yet another branded factory vehicle. Many go to great lengths painting the diesel tank and tailgate. If they actually still have a windscreen you may find an assortment of tassels and dangling adornments carefully placed around it. Some adhere a coloured sticker system that makes it look like a smashed windscreen. How they can see through this web of brightness I have no idea.
With hundreds of kilometres of pothole laden road, the battle between truck and Tuk Tuk is like a cat and mouse game. The trucks do well on the particularly bad sections of road with big wheels and at least a hint of suspension, while the Tuk Tuk is almost bought to a grinding halt trying to push through. When small good sections of road present themselves, we go full throttle trying to gain some kilometres. This is where it is possible to leave the trucks behind as their overloaded vehicles constrict them. And so the cat and mouse chase becomes part of the days driving.
West Bengal has banned 2 stroke engines, so all the Tuk Tuks run on gas. Poor Uggi keeps losing one of the bolts that keeps the exhaust in place and we needed to restock. If you’re planning on driving a Tuk Tuk across India, take your own bolts – not easy to source. The beauty of these maintenance stops is the intrigue of, and interaction with the locals. We are always sure to draw an interested crowd. People in rural India are pleasant and kind. I have not felt unsafe or threatened, quite the opposite. I have enjoyed all the beautiful people who have taken an interest in our journey and stopped to chat. I have enjoyed watching village life like a voyeur catching glimpses of daily life.
We had planned to try to get our Tuk Tuk’s serviced in Bharumpur (90km’s) into our days drive, however after 2 failed attempts at trying to find a mechanic, Chris decided he would do the service himself. We arrived at our hotel at around 3.00pm and the guys got started. By 6.00pm as night was imminent they were still hard at it. We had 2 different model Tuk Tuks and ours didn’t have a manual. Half of our paperwork and manual were missing from our pack. Sterling effort from the boys.
We ran into team ‘Chutney Chunga’s” and swapped stories.
Another soul enriching day.